Blogger Jason Kottke wrestled with what to call this new class of entrepreneurship, these cottage industries with global reach targeting niche markets of distributed demand. “Boutique” is too pretentious, and “indie” not quite right. He observed that others had suggested “craftsman, artisan, bespoke, cloudless, studio, atelier, long tail, agile, bonsai company, mom and pop, small scale, specialty, anatomic, big heart, GTD business, dojo, haus, temple, coterie, and disco business.” But none seemed to capture the movement.
So he proposed “small batch,” a term most often applied to bourbon. In the spirits world, this implies handcrafted care. But it can broadly refer to businesses focused more on the quality of their products than the size of the market. They’d rather do something they were passionate about than go mass. And these days, when anyone can get access to manufacturing and distribution, that is actually a viable choice. Walmart, and all the compromise that comes with it, is no longer the only path to success.
The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into production, no financing or tooling required. “Three guys with laptops” used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too. “Hardware is becoming much more like software,” as MIT professor Eric von Hippel puts it.
The Web was just the proof-of-concept of what an open, bottom-up, collaborative industrial model could look like. Now the revolution hits the real world.